Senior year in high school, Suzanne Somersall’s classmates voted her “best dressed.” Admiring her classy sense of style, they knew her destiny might lie in the world of fashion. Indeed, the title has been prophetic: Somersall has since launched KiraKira, a jewelry collection of delicate, elegant pieces with superb styling features, from oxidized cherry blossoms to pearl-studded antlers and empty Baroque cameos. (Be sure to see below for LadyLUX's incredible giveaway contest of a piece of KiraKira jewelry.)
The designer best describes her style in one word: Organic.
“I’m very much influenced by nature or natural forms, either literally, like I will take an actual starfish or a piece of seafan and then create a cuff or hoop earrings or something from an actual object, or I’ll take a pattern and translate that into a sketch,” she said.
Somersall offers two different lines for two different types of women: a fashion line and a luxury line.
The luxury collection grew out of a desire to start a jewelry line that produced items in solid gold, whether rose gold, yellow gold or white gold. Of course, that unfortunately put her pieces out of reach for many consumers.
“I quickly realized that a lot of my friends and people that were looking at the jewelry loved the designs but couldn’t afford to spend thousands of dollars on a pair of earrings or ring so they were asking me to fabricate them in silver,” she explained.
She began to craft her designs in silver, gold lamé and other more accessibly priced materials, and soon created two distinct lines, each with a different feel and look.
“The fashion jewelry is a little more trendy, maybe more ephemeral in terms of the seasons and then I’ll change the pieces and do something new,” she said. “The luxury jewelry is more timeless and will last forever ... they are definitely something you want to pass down to your children.”
For those who want to invest, the luxury line offers high-end, classic options in precious stones and metals. The KiraKira targets a wider audience with in-vogue styles, allowing her to take risks and explore the new and different. Somersall still experiments with the high-end line, perhaps exploring antique inspiration with a modern twist, as in her Gemma collection, which pairs 8-prong settings with rose-cut stones. Her new passion: unconventional stones and creative metal alloys.
“I was getting bored with just plain silver and gold,” she said.
Walking around, she is perpetually aware of the beauty in her surroundings, mentally experimenting with an element from a building or a leaf as inspiration that can translate into new and different pieces. One day strolling on the beach, she stumbled across an intricate piece of seafan. The leafy, organic form, appearing like a piece of lace, inspired a circle pendant. This initial piece blossomed into her Kai (“ocean” in Hawaiian) collection, with rings, necklaces and cuffs, included wrapped pieces and pave stones.
The elaborate masks and costumes of her hometown of New Orleans, with their glitzy sequins and rhinestones, have also found their way into her jewelry pieces. Antique inspirations, from vintage jewelry catalogs, Victorian jewelry, Baroque art or even Antonio Gaudi’s sculpture, factor large in her collections. “Jewelry is kind of like a tiny sculpture,” the designer declared.
Somersall brings a unique, feminine delicacy to the design table, an intricacy that can sometimes be difficult to produce.
“(I try) to push the boundaries of how something can be fabricated … I often talk to the artists I work with and bring them a project, and they’ll say ‘Oh, I don’t really think we can do this, this is going to be really hard,’ and I’ll say ‘Oh, let’s try. Why don’t we try this or that?’ I think some of my pieces are hard and difficult to replicate in terms of how they are made,” she said.
Her first forays into jewelry design began at a young age, when she put together some basic beaded pieces. Later in life, wanting to pursue her interest in art, she got her feet wet with stone setting and metal setting classes in college. She participated in a study abroad program in Florence, Italy, that inspired her passion for culture and history, an ardor her jewelry would later exhibit.
“It’s been a real passion, but I don’t really think I had a plan,” Somersall maintained. “It just kind of evolved as I got older and now it’s my career. I’m thrilled that things have started to fall into place … I realized ‘Wow, I could do this.’ I could make a career out of this and could make jewelry that other people could wear.”
It was at Rhode Island School of Design, in metal working classes, that she acquired the technical expertise –computerized designing, 3-D models, wax carving, construction from sheet metal – that would take her jewelry line to the next level.
“Being at RISD there is a big emphasis on being an artist and I definitely wanted to have a company someday and was sort of struggling with my desire to make something that was kind of commercial that people would want to buy versus to put in a museum,” she said.
Although RISD professors pushed becoming an artist, she couldn’t get the idea of becoming a designer out of her head. Dreaming of selling her pieces far and wide, she enrolled in some jewelry design classes after she found her first choice, fashion, was full. It turned out to be a fateful choice: She launched her jewelry line shortly after.
Somersall’s next move is to hopefully open a new store in New York this winter, selling both her styles and those of her designer friends, and release new collections for the luxury line and KiraKira, including a line of statement cocktail rings inspired by sunflowers.
Check out all her pieces at kirakirajewelry.com.
One winner will receive a KiraKira “Sea Fan” ring (see picture above)
Here’s how to enter:
Step 2: "SHARE" the KiraKira ring post on the LadyLUX Facebook and leave a comment
The giveaway is open for 7 days. The winner is selected at random and ill be notified via Facebook or Twitter. The winner can choose her metal of choice and ring size.
Be sure to check back for future LUX giveaways!